Pi And Mash Library Techy Day #PiAndMash

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A couple of weeks ago I attended Pi and Mash, which was a Mashed Libraries techy event at Senate House Library in London. It’s been a while since the last Mashed Libraries event, so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I could only stay for the morning session, but during that time I did get to run a workshop, which was primarily focused on Pocket Code and how easy it is to get ideas up and running quickly with it. Pocket Code is a visual programming tool for Android devices that is primarily aimed at teaching children the basics of programming and is closely based on Scratch by MIT. Most of the coding is done by dragging blocks around the screen and changing the data in them. It’s very flexible too and you can get working results from it within a few minutes – see this video for a compass app which was created in one minute.

It’s a programming tool I really enjoy using because, as I said it is so easy to use, and if you’ve got an idea for a program you want to try out you can easily prototype something within an hour. I ran through the basics of the system, including how to:

  • Create and edit programs
  • Find programs written by others to see how they work and tweak them for yourself
  • Work with the different coloured code blocks for different type of actions within the program eg orange blocks control the flow of the program; blue ones control the movement of objects on the screen; purple ones are for audio

The Pocket Code app itself is pretty much self-contained. From it you can do all of the above and also link to help screens, tutorials and upload and share you programs directly to the Pocket Code site.

I also put together a few rough ideas for how people in a library setting could use the app, including a Dewey quiz (match the image on the screen to the correct Dewey classification); a Pong-style version of the quiz; and Quiet please (it uses an audio sensor on your Android device to trigger a “Quiet please” message if it gets too loud). The aim was just to give people an idea of what they could put together with it.

Pocket Code presentation

Following on from this we also talked about other easy to use tools that people could use to create programs or manipulate/share data in various ways and we chatted a bit about Yahoo Pipes (it wouldn’t be a Mashed Libraries event without a mention of it) and ifttt.com.

I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but as I followed the Twitter event hashtag through the day I could tell there was a buzz and that lots of attendees at the wide range of sessions were keen to try out new ideas once they got back to their workplaces.

Well done to Ka-Ming, Simon and Andrew for organising it. They get bonus points too for arranging for a 3D printer to be at the event as well.

Spend Love Index: Idea for National Hack the Government event #NHTG14

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This weekend Rewired State are running a National Hack the Government event around the UK. I won’t be attending, but I thought I’d submit an idea that those attending might want to work on.

I called it the Spend Quality Index, and the idea is to see if a council’s spend on a service is proportional to the social media love it receives in response to that service?

Steps involved could be:

  1. Take the budget figures for a specific council service (eg Fakeshire Council Library Service).
  2. Collect all mentions of Fakeshire’s Library Service across various social media channels, extracting the user sentiment ie happy; unhappy; angry.
  3. Do the same for all Library Services across England.
  4. Produce a sliding scale of happiness/satisfaction with the services based on funding & sentiment.

Budget figures could be taken from CIPFA annual library stats and sentiment analysis APIs could be used.

Disclaimers

I know this isn’t a scientific approach and I don’t expect the results to be taken seriously – it’s about looking at things in a different way.

I chose libraries because that’s the sector I work in, and it isn’t me pointing fingers at library services who have made cuts.

Popular Bookmarks Yahoo Pipes Search Experiment #MashLib

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A while ago I experimented with Yahoo Pipes to put together a search tool that aggregates links everyone has saved to social bookmarking sites Digg, Pinboard and Delicious and returns the most popular recent sites based on a simple keyword search. NB: I’m not talking about only the bookmarks I’ve saved, but all bookmarks saved by the communities on these sites.

So, if you enter the phrase “technology” you might get the following results list:

http://www.nytimes.com [13]

http://www.theatlantic.com [13]

http://www.theverge.com [9]

http://www.youtube.com [7]

…etc

The results are displayed in popularity order and the number in square brackets indicates the number of times anyone has bookmarked the site recently on Digg, Delicious or Pinboard. Each of the sites that appear in the results list also act as a clickable link to that site.

As it’s been created in Yahoo Pipes you can also get a variety of useful data formats as output, including RSS, JSON and PHP.

I decided to put it together as a way of discovering new sites, based upon sites other people had recently found useful. It’s doesn’t currently provide a comprehensive list of sites, but it does offer an alternative way of discovering sites that I might not have been returned by big name search engines.

It’s something I’d like to develop, but had forgotten about it until @AgentK23 mentioned something to me recently about collaborative bookmarking.

How I’d like to develop it…

  • Include as many social bookmarking sites as possible as part of the aggregation process to improve the comprehensiveness of the search results. The 3 mentioned are ones that I could easily generate a hackable and useful search/result query url for. For example, I couldn’t do anything useful with Diigo bookmarks, as it limits the results of community RSS feeds to 20 items (Edit: See positive update at foot of blog post). I’d be happy to receive suggestions about other social bookmarking sites I could tap into in this way.
  • The clickable links to the websites mentioned in the search results currently just go to the home page of those sites, but I’d like to work out a way to go directly to relevant articles on the site instead. Because different websites have different search query structures I couldn’t turn the links into ones that just focus on the search keyword that had been entered. For example, the New York Times link for the “technology” search mentioned earlier goes to www.nytimes.com , not http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/technology
  • Yahoo Pipes is a useful tool to try out ideas like this, but I’m still not sure about its reliability. So, I should think about developing this without relying on Yahoo Pipes.

Here’s the link to it if you want to try it out. Any feedback would be appreciated… and remember, it’s just an experiment and not a commercial product.

As most search tools have a daft name I thought I’d call it “DiPiDel POP!” – An abbreviation of Digg, Pinboard, Delicious Popular. 🙂

Update: Thanks to Marjolein Hoekstra who followed up on this post and got in touch with Diigo about my issue. They have now extended the RSS feed to 100 items, which is very responsive of them and great news too, as I can now use the site as an aggregation source. As well as including Diigo in the aggregation process, I’ve also now included Blogmarks and Bibsonomy. Thanks to Marjolein for suggesting them too.

Dapper.net: How To Make Feeds From Web Pages That Really Don’t Want You To

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If I ever want to put together a mashup or just tinker with data on the web my first port of call is Yahoo pipes. However, even though I really like pipes, it frustrates me a fair amount of the time too. Sometimes it behaves erratically and I get a sulk on with it. So, I decided to have a scout around  to look for other ways of achieving what I want.

My first great find is Dapper. I imagine this is old hat to some people, as it’s been around for a few years. It’s actually owned by Yahoo too. As the site itself says…

Dapper is a tool that enables users to create update feeds for their favorite sites and website owners to optimize and distribute their content in new ways.

It doesn’t do the same thing as Yahoo pipes, but is extremely handy for pulling out data from web pages where a feed doesn’t exist, and it provides the output in the following formats (if it’s relevant to the data on the page) – XML, RSS, HTML, Google Gadget, Google Map, Image Loop, iCalendar, ATOM, CSV, JSON, XSL, YAML. I’m not going to pretend that I know what all of the feeds are, but they seem like a fairly handy group of feeds to be able to use.

I thought I’d see if I could create an RSS feed for our library catalogue. I’ve always wanted an RSS for it (so we can feed stock information through to different places easily) and I’ve also wanted a way to produce alerts for new titles (so users can be informed about any new stock they may be interested in), but our library catalogue neither. But now, using Dapper, I can do both easily.

Dapp Factory screen capture

To achieve this Dapper asks you to:

  1. Provide URL’s of web pages your data appears in. You just need to provide sample pages here. I gave it URLs of catalogue search results pages.
  2. Highlight samples of the data on these pages that you want in your feed. I highlighted fields containing Title, Author, Format (eg Hardback, DVD, etc), Book cover, Number of copies and then told Dapper what to call these fields.
  3. Group together data fields – this effectively puts related data together in a single record. If you don’t do this you end up with a list of unrelated data items in your RSS feed, rather than a list of ready formed records.
  4. Identify any portion of the url that can be changed by the user to create a brand new search using that resource. For example, in my url I changed “_TitleResults.aspx?page=1&searchTerm=cake&searchType=99&searchTerm2=&media=&br” to “_TitleResults.aspx?page=1&searchTerm={Query}&searchType=99&searchTerm2=&media=&br”, so I could easily create a new feed for a search for any other keyword without having to go through the whole process again.
  5. Choose the output format of the feed eg RSS, ATOM, HTML, iCalendar, etc (as mentioned earlier). You can also say which fields you want to appear in the output feed.

In response to this Dapper gives you a unique URL for your feed.

From this stage you can also:

  1. Change the query text, as mentioned in (4) and get its own unique URL for this new feed.
  2. Set up a service using the feed you created. Here you can make it public and allow others to create their own searches by changing the query text. This is the service I created. I also created a Google Gadget and added it to my iGoogle page.
  3. Set up an email alert for your feed. So, if a new item is added to the feed (eg a new book comes in stock matching your search query) it will send you an email notification.

I’ve only been tinkering with it for a few hours, but it looks like it’s going to come in handy for pulling out and re-using data in web pages that has in the past been difficult for me to get at. 🙂

Thoughts From Internet Librarian International 2011 Conference #ILI2011

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I attended Internet Librarian International 2011 a couple of weeks ago. It was a great event. Below are the tweets I sent out during the conference, just to give you a feel for the event.

Below them, I’ve also included some thoughts on the event itself.

How the Future Internet will Shape Libraries (Klaus Tochtermann, Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, University of Kiel and Professor of Computer Media)

  • Future internet. (3) Internet of things. Any item with an internet connection/IP address.
  • Future internet. (4) Internet of services.
  • Internet of services. Your services available wherever you have a presence – not just pull people back to your website to use them.
  • Put the book anywhere in Hamburg & geolocate them! Users find it via phone & share idea about book. What a crazy idea. I love it 🙂
  • Linked open data won’t replace marc. Catalogues are available immediately, but need to sync catalogues & L.O.D. service.

Visibility and Collaboration in Digital Domains (Linda Vidlund / Cecilia Petersson, Uppsala University Library)

  • Uppsala uni. – used qr codes around campus with temptation of free gifts from library. Also small digi screens on shelves with info
  • Qr-codes used to put references at end of physical books.

Visibility and Collaboration in Digital Domains (David McMenemy, University of Strathclyde)

  • Now listening to @D_McMenemy talking about collaboration in the digital domain. #ili2011
  • Digital libraries are moving on from content based – now greater interactivity.
  • Looking at processes in public libraries to see where collaboration could be put into place.
  • 98% UK public libraries don’t have a digital strategy.
  • If uk public libraries go down the fragmented volunteer route who will collaborate to provide coherent services?
  • Why are so many local authorities duplicating the same content?

New Ways of Analysing to Prove Value (Frank Cervone, Purdue University Calumet)

  • In session talking about how social networks work. How connections work.
  • How are nodes connected in social networks?
  • Measure of ties based on strength (frequency; duration; direction). Important because strong ties affect people & weak ties link…
  • http://t.co/kgIQDOQt is good for analysing social networks. Twendz is good. Twapperkeeper/summarizr is good for analysing…

New Ways of Analysing to Prove Value (Penny Bailey, Bailey Solutions)

  • RT @bethanar: PB: knowledge should not live in your email inbox #ili2011
  • Need to measure value of services where possible.

Innovations in Usage Analysis (Dave Pattern, University of Huddersfield / Bryony Ramsden, University of Huddersfield)

  • #lidp Huddersfield project – looked at library usage inc non-usage.
  • #lidp How does library borrowing affect user grades?
  • #lidp Needed to be aware of data protection and legal issues.
  • #lidp Found relationship between use of library resources and degree attainment, but not necessarily between visits and attainment.
  • #lidp More info about project at http://t.co/s2scvsOy

Innovations in Usage Analysis (Lisa Charnock, Intute / Andy Land, University of Manchester)

  • SALT project at Mimas. Library circ. data activity could help promote underused but relevant stock.
  • How do people select books they use? Serendipity; Anxiety; Trust concerns; Cynical about ratings & reviews
  • Mimas SALT. User evaluation of service to see whether recommender service would work. Amended thresholds to get accurate recomends
  • Will be testing SALT at John Rylands Uni. to see how it works across subjects.
  • John Rylands want to go live with SALT locally or nationally & also make it available in Primo.
  • MIMAS looking at how this can be developed – inc. aggregate more data; how could this help collection development?
  • Look at http://t.co/EPBBdx9n & http://t.co/wrm9HLFv for more info about SALT project.

Cutting-Edge Technology Projects (Terence Huwe, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California – Berkeley)

  • Meaning Based Computing: How do you modify your beliefs based on new facts available?
  • Bayesian analysis uses inc. breaking the Enigma code; handwriting and speech recognition; military uses…
  • Market success must take into account unstructured data as well as structured data. Social media interaction is unstructured data.
  • Many Fortune 500 organisations recognise they need new tools for managing structured & unstructured data. 15:23:04
  • Autonomy’s Meaning Based Computing tools http://t.co/tuo6zid8
  • New York Times article talking about how cheap software might replace lawyers. http://t.co/JxeFEmkq #savelawyers
  • Meaning Based Computing & Taxonomy based search might co-exist in future.
Cutting-Edge Technology Projects (Alexandre Lemaire, Ministry of Culture – Department of Public Libraries / Jean-François Füeg, Ministry of Culture – Department of public libraries / Christian Ducharme, W3line)
  • Samarcande – union catalogue of French speaking libraries in Belgium
  • Political issues slowed down development of Samarcande catalogue.
  • RT @ostephens: Depressing and almost unbelievable refusal by libraries and/or their political masters to share bibliographic metadata in Belgian #ili2011
  • RT @bethanar: Catalogue: http://t.co/RMacayzD. Comes frm union cats of provinces, harvested by OAI. Also supports SRU & z39.50 #ili2011
  • Tools for librarians for Samarcande – Getting bib. descriptions – z39.50; SRU;OAI / MoCCAM for ILL’s / Getting stats
  • Not a real-time catalogue – need to develop availability functions
  • Samarcande – FRBR; Web2.0; Users contribute with Web2.0 functions; Sharing/monitoring tools. Want to develop social media presence.
  • Bring in external data to Samarcande.
  • W3Line http://t.co/dxhbCh3Y were responsible for technical development of the Samarcande union catalogue.
Simply I love you

Simply I love you (c) Wasfi Akab (Painting) / Flickr

Library Users in Turbulent Times (Kayo Chang, Bahrain Polytechnic)

  • Talking about Bahrain demonstrations and effect on Bahrain polytechnic
  • Effected library service. Facebook and Twitter use was banned because this was seen as part of reason why disturbances started.
  • Commenting or liking picture taken at demonstration could lead to suspension of student.
  • Had to make more use of library blog than Twitter and Facebook after social media was banned.

Library Users in Turbulent Times (Feda Kulenovic, Peace Support Operations Training Centre BiH and Reading for Ubuntu (www.citanje.org) )

  • Potential roles of libraries in post-conflict societies: Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Libraries can transform. The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation and information.
  • Librarians need to be the person people go to for reliable information in times of conflict were misinformation is prevalent.
  • Created a library wherever he could – embedded librarian. Beyond the walls of the library.
  • “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” (Helen Keller)
  • RT @kulinba: #ili2011 My latest SlideShare upload : Potential Role of Libraries in post-conflict… http://t.co/bAulqRBn
Library Users in Turbulent Times (Maria Cotera, African Prisons Project)
  • Maria talking about African Prisons project (mainly in Uganda)
  • Literacy is a big problem in the prisons.
  • Moderator highlighting similarities and differences between the situations of 3 speakers situations.
  • Most important role in social change is providing information. Librarians have the power to progress social change. #savelibraries
Innovative Services to Engage Users (Joanna Ptolomey, Joanna Ptolomey Information Services)
  • Now on stage talking about health information content.
  • Old model is that health information is pushed out to users/patients, but can’t push information back in.
  • How do you manage the finding, collection, sharing of health content that is relevant to you?
  • Librarians will be very important as chaperones/stewards for helping others to curate their own health collections.

Innovative Services to Engage Users (András Kardos, library.me.uk)

  • Project http://t.co/o1UFoWBh developed in Hungary. Central portal for all libraries – contains all info. for all libraries.
  • Want to develop it for UK libraries too.
  • Contains info re. library services; catalogue; news for libraries in Hungary
  • Similar projects in UK. http://t.co/crLAhtb8; http://t.co/QU8DgtXJ
Innovative Services to Engage Users ( Dave Puplett, London School of Economics)
  • I’m a lefty librarian and proud of it.
  • “People first, Content second” is a new social model.
  • Areas of opportunity – marketing; widening communication; user feedback; 2 way communication
  • RT @calire: #ili2011 Social design – Services designed around people. #b202
  • LSE Library use social media to be part of the conversation and engage with users.
  • 4square is a great marketing opportunity – people saying publicly that they’ve used the library to their friends.
  • Flickr – people are tagging photos; parts of photos
  • People will interact with social media accounts if they think it’s a real person they’re talking to.

Developing ourselves (Julio dos Anjos, INCITE: Associação Portuguesa para a Gestão da Informação)

  • 23 Things is now being run in Portugal.

Developing ourselves (Jo Alcock, Birmingham City University)

  • Heeeeeeeeres @joeyanne talking about productivity #ili2011 & #cpd23
  • Get things done: Record ideas so it’s not clogging up your head space; prioritise & do it; create trusted storage space…
  • Inbox flowchart for organisation. I wonder if this can be translated into automated actions using http://t.co/TJGca8wN
  • Some really interesting productivity tools coming from @joeyanne
  • Huzzah. Ifttt gets a mention by @Joeyanne
 Searching without Google (Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services)
  • Looking at search tools beyond Google, inc. specialist search.
  • Google is launching its “standout” tag which will allow publishers to highlight a number of their articles to improve their ranking
  • Login to your Google dashboard and see what info they know about you.
  • Yeeeeeeeees. @Karenblakeman mentions mild beer. 🙂
  • Google sometimes thinks it knows what you really want when you search, rather than what you actually want.
  • What are Yahoo playing at? Seems as if they just can’t be arsed developing anything any more!
  • Search tools: Duckduckgo; Blekko (also shows who else has linked to site);Wolfram alpha (I still don’t get it!); Zanran (charts)
  • Silobreaker for news searches.
  • Specialist searches: chemspider; biznar; techextra; philpapers; mednar; scirus; pubmed; healthmash; offstats; guardian data store
  • Social media search: topsy; socialmention; blogpulse / Create search engine – blekko / zuula
The New Normal Needs a New You
  • Ulla de Stricker says expand definitions of what we do in a time-scarce economy.
  • @Chibbie Talking about how TEDx would be great for inspiration.
  • Michael Stephens: Libraries have the potential to be anywhere and everywhere.
  • @chibbie Says if you look for roles to take on don’t look for the word ‘librarian’ in description. Our skills go beyond the name.
  • Surprisingly even though conference is technology based, there has been a great focus on people interaction.
Thoughts on the conference

I really enjoyed the whole event, including meeting friends/people I know on Twitter and plenty of other library/information based people from so many different countries.

Even though they weren’t always of direct relevance to my current role, most of the presentations I sat-in on were of interest to me. They helped me put my job and library service into the wider context of library and information services in general. It’s useful to attend an event like this to remind yourself where your place might be in the grand scheme of things and how librarians and information specialist throughout the world are working towards common goals.

The key themes that came across during the conference were:

  • Library and information services and our information skills don’t have to be constrained by the walls of the library or the title “librarian”.
  • We need to share resources and knowledge with each other – by either collaborating with others to share the load or by pulling together isolated silos of information.
  • Libraries are key to developing social change and improving society – they open up access to reliable and relevant sources of information to everyone, and we are the chaperones of that information and those who want to access it.
  • We can help improve ourselves and our services by making sure we use the most appropriate tools available.
  • We are in an age where people are just as much content creators as information consumers and we need to understand how this impacts on the provision and management of information services

Even though it was a technology based conference, there was just as much emphasis on the human side of things, which appealed to me. Maybe within this area there’s a suggestion here that technology in information and library work will still need a reasonable amount of human input and not just steam along like a Google search engine, without anyone there to say “Hold up! Are you sure this information is correct?”

As I say, I really enjoyed the conference, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to attend again some time in the future.

Using ifttt For Productivity And More

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I’m busy exploring a useful way of feeding information from one application to another at the moment. It’s called “If This Then That” (ifttt) , is based on a simple idea and is really straightforward to use.

You set up a trigger from one web application (eg A Google News search for “libraries”), so that it triggers an action in another web application any time this happens (eg Creates a blog post from any newspaper articles it finds and links to the full news article). Each trigger/action you set up is called a task.

Put into “If This Then That” terminology the above would be…

IF A Google News search finds any news articles containing the word “libraries”

THEN create a blog post in Posterous using details of that news article.”

Visually this would be set up like this.

ifttt - Task Shot 1

ifttt - Task shot 2

1.) Shows the full “task” indicating that the “If” part is pulling in an RSS feed and the “Then” part is creating the blog post.

2.) A plain English description of the task. If you add a hashtag keyword to a description you can also search on this. eg. #LibraryNews #Productivity

3.) Shows how I set up the “If” task – I just pasted in an RSS feed.

4.) Shows how I created the “Then” action. The text in {{ }} brackets indicates that these are fields in the RSS feed containing data. I can tell ifttt which part of the blog post this data should be put into eg Title, Description, Tags.

The screen shot below shows how it appears in the blog post.

{{Entry Title}} = “Uncertainty over library funding – Croydon Advertiser.

{{EntryPublished}} = October 04, 2011 at 08:44AM.

{{EntryContent}} = Title again and summary of article.

{{EntryURL}} = Link to full article on the Croydon Advertiser website.

ifttt - Task shot 3

In some cases you can indicate which piece of information triggers the response and you can indicate which information is passed to the response eg. If you were pulling through Twitter information and posting it to Evernote, you could say that you only want to see the Twitter user name & tweet, but you don’t need to see the date the tweet was sent.

There are a number of resources you can use as a trigger and/or a response to that trigger: RSS feeds; Twitter; Tumblr; Youtube; Evernote; Google calendar; Posterous; Tumblr; Clock; Weather monitor; Flickr and others too.

I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks now and I’m finding it really useful for when I’m:

(1) Performing the same/similar tasks in a variety of locations

(2) Performing the same tasks in the same place on a regular basis

(3) Wanting to re-use information in different places, without the need to do it manually.

Once created, the tasks can be edited and deleted. They can also be turned on/off depending if you want them to run all the time or only when you decide to run them.

So how have I been using it?

  • Keeping a record of what I need to do, by:
    • Feeding information from emails containing the words “To Do” or “Blog This” in the subject heading into a specific folder in Evernote.
    • Feeding bookmarks in delicious.com with the tag “readlater” into the same folder in Evernote. I use this tag for large reports/articles I can’t whizz through in 30 minutes.
  • Keeping a record of what I’ve done, by:
    • Feeding bookmarks in delicious.com with the tag “finishedreading” into Google calendar. These tend to be the same bookmarks as above, once I’ve read them.
    • Feeding details of blog posts I’ve written from any of my blogs into the same Google calendar.

I’m doing this (1) as a way of pulling together reminders of the things I’m supposed to be doing and (2) sometimes I feel as if I’ve not done much, so I want somewhere I can go to that will give me a positive boost and show me that I have actually achieved things.

I’m also using it for:

  • Collating library news quickly, by setting up searches on a number of sites and feeding the search results into the same blog. The purpose of this is to avoid having to do the same search over and over again in the same places, generally so I can find and Tweet news articles/blog posts for Voices For The Library more easily.
  • Feeding “likes” on various resources eg Youtube; last.fm to a blog post on my Tumblr blog. I use this blog as a place to post upbeat and creative things I like.

I know some services, such as WordPress, allow you to feed information directly to other services without using ifttt, but the good thing about ifttt, is that you can do this all in one place for a wide range of popular services, using the same method.

I’ve found it really useful so far, but as it’s still in its infancy I’ve also been thinking about how ifttt could be developed too. Here are some ideas about how I think it could be developed to help me achieve more productivity:

(1) Being able to make a copy of a task. I’m setting up a series of tasks that are only slightly different, but I have to create each one from scratch. It would be great if I could copy a task and then edit the parts that need changing.

(2) Being able to create an RSS output  for the “That” part of a task?

(3) Being able to create an Evernote input for the “This” part of a task?

(4) It would be great if I could take one input specified in “This” and feed it/branch off to multiple outputs via “That”, rather than having to set up a number of separate tasks.

(5) The ability to combine a chain of ifttt tasks in future, so that a single input can trigger a series of actions and can possibly branch off as mentioned in (4) above.

(6) A channel input/output to Google docs, specifically spreadsheets. I’m thinking that a data feed in/out of a spreadsheet would be really useful.

Even if they aren’t able to implement any of the above ideas I know ifttt is going to prove useful for me just as it is, expanding on the ideas I’ve already put into practice. It really is a useful tool and so simple to use too.

Mobilising The Library Website

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A few weeks ago a discussion was going on via Twitter about the possibility of creating an iphone app for library websites using Bloapp. The benefits of using this service were that it was quick and easy and provided another way to offer a service to library users. Put simply, Bloapp takes an RSS feed for your site and makes it available as an app within the Bloapp service. (More details from Ned Potter here). After having a look at it, I didn’t feel it offered enough functionality for a mobile app/site. Most blogs automatically display pretty well on modern internet enabled phones without the need to set up an extra service like this.

However, it did get me thinking about what a mobile enabled library site for my library service, Surrey County Council Libraries, might contain and how I might want to achieve that. So I came up with my own criteria for a prototype site, taking on board some of Ned’s points.

  • Quick to set up (max 1 hour).
  • Easy to set up.
  • Free to set up.
  • Accessible to as many mobile internet users as possible.
  • Ability to display RSS feeds (eg Library news; Library Twitter).
  • Ability to display static web page information (eg Library location; services).
  • Capability of searching the library catalogue.
  • Capability of creating a mobile site with a reasonable number of web pages.
  • QR code access.
SCC Lib Test site QR Code

With this in mind, I went looking for sites that either allowed you to convert your website into a mobile site, or allowed you to create one. I didn’t think an app was the best way to go, as this automatically limits it to the type of phone that can access the website.

I found 16 sites that looked promising at first, but none of them gave me anything vaguely near what I wanted to create, quickly and easily. A handful (including Winksite; Mobisitegalore;  Onbile; Mippin) allowed me to create sites that had some of the features I needed, but none gave me the full package.

However, I also decided to see how easy it would be to use Weebly, a free website creator service, which isn’t a dedicated mobile site creator, but might do the job just as well.

Well, it did the job much better than any of the other services available and within an hour I’d built from scratch a mobile site prototype that included all the functionality I wanted.

It had:

  • Embedded RSS Twitter and news feeds
  • A range of pages about services provided by Surrey Libraries, including the stub of a page indicating where libraries are located (information cut, pasted and tailored from the main library website)
  • A way to search the catalogue (Weebly allows HTML code to be pasted easily into the site)
  • QR code access
  • It displays reasonably on a range of phones

It isn’t perfect (it is a prototype after all) and some of the links go to the main library site, but given another couple of hours it could be tidied up, so that it was a more or less self-contained mobile site. I know this means it would take longer than setting up the Bloapp site, but in terms of the extras library users could get from this, I think it’s worth spending a little extra time.

The main problem I have is the catalogue search going to the main site once the search has been run, but in a way I have overcome the biggest problem with searching the catalogue, which was the lack of clarity/cleanness of the initial catalogue search function when displayed on some mobile phones. Once I get to the search results my initial frustration has been overcome, so I suppose I have achieved what I want, but it isn’t perfect.

The site can be found at http://scclibtest.weebly.com/index.html .

I’d be interested to know what people think about it and if it displays okay on your phone too.

Thanks.